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Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 19

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 19 - John Wagner, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Mark Millar, John Smith, Dermot Power, Paul Marshall, David Millgate, Carlos Ezquerra, Greg Staples, Brett Ewins, Ron Smith, Mick Austin Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files #19 has, in bright colours, various stories culled from the pages of 2000AD and The Judge Dredd Megazine in 1993. The work of many writers and artists is featured, notably John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, who co-created the Judge way back when. Grant Morrison wrote the story for Eszquerra this time.

‘Inferno’ is a twelve-part tale and it’s the best thing in the book. A ‘part’ in British comics is only six pages so don’t panic. Reading it won’t take long. Ex-Judge Grice and a bunch of other renegade Judges have escaped from the prison moon Titan and are on a mission of revenge. They bring with them a terrible plague weapon called the Meat Virus which takes a couple of days to kill the victim. During this time he becomes quite ill. It is absorbed through the skin so there is no defence. This is an excellent story and Carlos Ezquerra’s art looks good in colour.

‘Inferno’ is preceded by a couple of shorter works. The first story, ‘Enter:Joni Kiss’ introduces a deadly assassin who shoots the Supreme Judge of East Meg Two, which is a Sov city. Then he gets a bit of paper telling him Dredd is his next target. The reader is left in cliff-hanger suspense which is not, in fact, relieved by this book. The next stories feature other villains. The Chieftan is a Scottish warrior with a big chain-saw sword. Then there are memory thieves and a man that kills pop stars whose music he dislikes. One can sympathise with him. A couple of corpse peddlers fall foul of the law. All this is standard stuff in Mega-City One but still pretty good. Then the big story, ‘Inferno’.

After ‘Inferno’ there was more average Dredd fare, though average Dredd fare will do for most of us. The Jigsaw killer story stood out because of the beautiful art but invisible credits mean I can’t tell you who did it. I also enjoyed a few blackly humorous tales of the kind this strip does so well. In ‘Judge Tyrannosaur’ a dinosaur of that ilk breaks into the city and happens to eat a criminal who is holding the city’s favourite granny hostage. The demented populace demands that he be made a Judge. The media consult Dr. Mike Crichton, a Jurassic expert. In ‘Ladonna’ a sexy pop singer causes obstructions and riots because she is so popular, everyone going mad over her outrageous lyrics and conical metal bras. Dredd’s solution is deft. Then a sect of morons takes over a sausage shop. Believing that ignorance is bliss they practice progressive lobotomy to make themselves stupid. The siege is hilarious. One intriguing villain is Slick Dickens, the one man Dredd fears, perhaps.

Finally, there is another long story about Mechanismo Droids, robot Judges with reactions fifty percent better than human. A Mark 1 model was lost months ago and has reappeared to cause mayhem. Chief Judge McGruder wants to release the Mark 2 Droids to chase down the rogue Mark 1, which convinces Dredd she’s gone crazy. A nice conclusion to the book that leaves you wanting more.

Getting anthropological for a moment, it seems unlikely to me that any culture except Britain could have come up with Dredd and his milieu. Even for us, it had to be conceived in the age of Thatcherism and punk rock. Black and slightly daft humour are one of the strip’s best features. One of its worst features is excessive violence. We all like action and people getting shot or blown to smithereens is part and parcel of upholding the law. However, at times the gore is excessive and the violence lurches over into sadism just to make the bad guys look really bad. I reckon it could be toned down a bit with no harm to the stories.

British comics by their very anthological nature always give you a curate’s egg, some great, some good, some not so good stories. The overall quality here is less than excellent but better than fair. I was going to say that Dredd is a good egg but that would not be true.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/